I awoke from a restless Ocean Springs morning some time near 7 a.m.
Jessie had already left for her business: The Greenhouse on Porter.
I never had the chance to try one of her delicious biscuits. I will have to stop by her place unannounced on my return to enjoy their flaky mystique.
I dressed, I readied, and I packed all within the span of about 90-minutes. I even had time to enjoy a cup of tea. By 8:30 a.m. I was en route to Biloxi to have my oil changed and to have the guys look over my bike.
I was thankful "S-" and "J-" offered very specific directions (after the casinos and the white picket fence) on how to get to the Suzuki City Kawasaki Dealer.
Their guidance was spot on.
The ride there was picturesque -- like seeing the beautiful White House Hotel and the Jefferson Davis home (to my right) and the Gulf (to my left). I also drove by the architecturally-interesting art museum: the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art.
When I arrived at the Suzuki dealer, it was just before 9 a.m.
The guys immediately took my bike in the shop to cool off the engine before changing my oil, airing my tires, and adjusting my sticky clutch. I was out of there within 45-minutes. Time flew by especially since I had a little girl named Cameron (there in the shop with her dad) to keep me company. She and I exchanged quite a few stories. I found myself feeling very fortunate that "J-" had made the recommendation to have my bike checked in that location.
I got back on the road (90-west) and headed for New Orleans.
This route has been (without a doubt) one of my favorites.
You see the vast dark waters of the Gulf. In addition, you have soft sand and ocean mist spraying your face while saltwater and freshwater scents compete with one another for attention.
Of course, I saw the famous carved cypress sculptures along the somewhat "treed" median, too.
Telepathically, I thanked "S-" for encouraging me to take this route.
I stopped for gas in a small town called Bay St. Louis. I wanted to stay and visit the area because I had heard it was very artsy and hip; however, the
dark clouds which intermingled with the blue skies overhead nudged me to stay on course and move forward.
As I rode from Mississippi into Louisiana, I noticed a shift in 90-west. In other words, a pretty sharp left was required to stay on path.
You ride through an annoyingly bouncy NASA buffer zone; you pass Waveland, Mississippi and the last (which is really the first) red and blue shrimp numbered route; you pass a giant-signed, can't miss it casino... then, moments later, you reach the Tammany Parish in Louisiana.
Of course, the Louisiana territory requires crossing over three bayous, and the West Pearl River.
Yet, another picturesque route.
Again, waterways envelop you along this section of Route 90.
That is... until... the ferocious bruises along the road begin.
Louisiana roads are damn unforgiving.
When I see signs for New Orleans, I pull over on the side of the road and text my brother Pablo to let him know that I am en route. At this point, I am conditioning myself for a spectacular "I'm lost" moment.
It never happens.
Instead, I miraculously stay on 90-west which I think turns into Broad Avenue (thanks to a Richmond, VA flashback, I choose that road). I avoid Interstate-10, and I begin to see huge canopies of trees and signs of residential life.
In a well-shaded area, I pull over and use my GPS to find Napoleon Avenue.
Thirty minutes later, I see Pablo's residence. I park on a side street (Laurel) and send him a text.
It's 12:36 p.m.
He walks outside to greet me and helps me with my backpack. I ask about parking, but apparently where he lives (Uptown) special parking signs/stickers are not required.
Relief and exhaustion set in; I made it to New Orleans.
I find my 23-year-old brother in the midst of helping his new roommate (another Coast Guard member) move into his (soon-to-be their) place. He introduces me to my new sleeping quarters, and heads back to help his friend.
I am starving, so he directs me to Magazine Street where I literally stop at the first restaurant I find: La Petite Grocery.
I sit at the bar, order a sparkling rose, and devour a rabbit dish. They could have served me a well-seasoned boot, and I would have been happy. I order dessert, too.
I pay my check and head back to Pablo's. Now that I am nourished, I begin to assist in anyway that I can.
Somewhere near 6 p.m. the moving of boxes stops.
Pablo and I ready ourselves for our first night out.
He takes me to a neighborhood establishment called The Avenue Pub and tells me about how they rotate their tap beers so much that they just use sharpies and tape to label their taps.
We order a couple of beers, and some food, and spend a humid evening overlooking the street.
The focus of our discussion revolves around Hurricane Katrina and gentrification. He tells me the one place he's really noticed changes -- in a short amount of time -- is in the Bywater neighborhood.
We deliberate (comfortable and privileged of course) over mixed housing, rent control, and forced segregation (this time based on economics -- but isn't culture always at the root of it, too).
I tell him it's happening everywhere, not just in New Orleans.
We finish our food and beers and head back to his place around 9 p.m.
I fall fast asleep on my kidney-bean shaped bed.
Tomorrow, we visit the Jean Lafitte National Park.
(Another suggestion from "S-" in Mississippi.)
In the morning, we have breakfast at a place called Surrey's.
On our way there, we run into people along the street still drinking. I ask him about the Coast Guard and about where he sees himself in the future.
Today, we discuss quite a bit about how far we've climbed and how much more we have to go.
We also reminisce about our father.
[Although Pablo and I are not biological siblings, my father (our father) raised him since the age of two.]
We worry about his physical and financial health with no clear cut solutions.
Closing out the check, we head to Jean Lafitte.
In the outskirts of New Orleans lies a natural paradise.
This national park is almost unbelievable.
The only reason it exists is because man could not tame it; otherwise, these swamp lands would have been paved over and developed by now.
To our surprise, the park has no admission fee!
With water, bug spray, sun screen, and cameras in tow, we embark on a nearly five mile (to and fro) hiking trail.
Descriptions would do this place an injustice; visuals are required.
Sweaty and rejuvenated by nature, we head back to urban mayhem.
Rather than showering, I decide to check out Magazine Street where I stop by a few second-hand stores, and gawk at all the upscale boutiques and shops.
Upon my return, I find myself in an empty house.
Pablo has already joined his friends for a birthday celebration.
I spend a Friday night at the local grocery store (Rouses) and later Tipitina's.
The latter, a live music venue, is offering a free show, so I take in a tiny bit of nightlife before falling asleep just before midnight.
Tomorrow, Pablo has planned a beach day in Waveland, Mississippi.
Until we meet again, my friend.